My Debate on New Testament Reliability

In the several days, I had a full debate with another blogger named Professor Taboo regarding the reliability of the New Testament. In our debate, we mostly discussed the veracity of the books of the New Testament when it comes to their historical validity and our sources for affirming the historical resurrection of Jesus. I contended that the New Testament is reliable, and unsurprisingly, my friend Taboo just the opposite.

Now that the debate has ended, I’m going to fully reproduce the entire thing discourse between me and Taboo so that anyone who wants to analyze our arguments can see to it, for themselves, who made the better case. Enjoy!


Round One: Professor Taboo

In a few different ways — at least on an introductory level — respectfully, that’s exactly what we are doing here. To be a lot more specific for you SC…

For starters, please provide ANY independent sources/authors (i.e. 1st century CE non-Judeo-Christian authors) for the veracity of the resurrection, the veracity of the Synoptic gospels, and the earliest movement “The Way” (as it was known in the 1st century CE) and its pre-Paulinian theology. Further still, what extant artifacts/texts are NOT 2nd and 3rd century CE Greco-Roman-Constantinian “evidence”?

Aside from the plethora of contradictions — which are relevant, but not crucial for establishing unreliability; it does help — I feel the larger question, and hence deficiency of the NT veracity, is the gross lack of independent corroboration for events, teaching, and characters of the Synoptic gospels. See my comment-reply to you below.

If you can provide a minimum of three independent corroborations, THEN you might have a decent apologetic chance.


Round One: Scientific Christian

Perhaps you misunderstood — the debate is to be organized between our blogs, where we will both posts introductory defenses for our claims, then two or three rebuttals, and finally concluding statements. A written dialogue/debate, so to speak. So, will you take me up on this challenge?

As for the remainder of your comments, I will make some notes on them as you have not actually accepted my challenge yet, hence making this exchange just another online discourse for now where the poor skeptic has all his beliefs dismantled in front of his eyes.

“…and its pre-Paulinian theology.”

You’re clearly amazingly confused, as there is no such term as ‘Paulinian’. I can’t actually deduce whether or not you are trying to use complex terms to give the illusion to a reader that you’re well versed on the academic literature on the subject, or whether this blatant error comes from some different source, but indeed, there is no such term as ‘pre-Paulinian’. Scholars say ‘pre-Pauline’. You go on to make a similarly questionable statement;

“…NOT 2nd and 3rd century CE Greco-Roman-Constantinian “evidence”?”

Constantinian? Am I missing something? And since when was Constantine a 2nd/3rd century emperor? He became emperor 306 AD, which is the 4th century. These are minor but telling errors on your grasp of ancient Roman and Christian history.

Now, let’s actually get to a few of your arguments/comments.

“For starters, please provide ANY independent sources/authors (i.e. 1st century CE non-Judeo-Christian authors) for the veracity of the resurrection, the veracity of the Synoptic gospels, and the earliest movement “The Way” (as it was known in the 1st century CE) and its pre-Paulinian theology. Further still, what extant artifacts/texts are NOT 2nd and 3rd century CE Greco-Roman-Constantinian “evidence”?”

Now, because this statement makes almost no grammatical sense and is highly vague, it’s hard for me to tell exactly what you’re looking for. But from what I can get at, you want a 1st century source written by a non-Christian substantiating the resurrection of Jesus and the historicity of the Gospels. For the historicity of the Gospels, almost all our 1st century Israelite sources qualify; an abundance of 1st century non-Christian sources confirm figures like Pontius Pilate really were procurators, that Tiberius reigned during the ministry of Jesus, that pretty much every location mentioned in the entire New Testament did in fact exist, etc, etc, etc. Furthermore, archaeology has substantially also confirmed the historicity of the New Testament accounts. To become more familiar with this, I can only recommend reading this magisterial paper from 2010 written by a world-class scholar in this field on the emerging relationship between archaeology and the Gospel of John.
https://www.academia.edu/8789383/The_Historical_Jesus_in_the_Fourth_Gospel_A_Paradigm_Shift

I’m sure that should satisfy you for the time being. But, before I move on, I have a scathing critique of your methodology. You specifically wanted non-Christian sources — in other words, you consider Christian sources historically unreliable for.. No explanation whatsoever. Considering that dismissing Christian sources only because they are Christian is totally crazy, your method is going to have to be ignored. Christian ancient sources are valuable, as agreed upon by all living historians, including all historians to ever live.

We move on to the resurrection — obviously, we have a number of sources, all Christian, documenting the resurrection and details about it. Gospels, Paul’s epistles, pre-Pauline creeds, etc. But mentioning the resurrection itself is questionable, since the debate is about the reliability of the Gospels, not about proving the resurrection with history. If you were interested about the former, though, watch this:

Now, this part of your comment:

“Further still, what extant artifacts/texts are NOT 2nd and 3rd century CE Greco-Roman-Constantinian “evidence”?”

To me, this statement makes absolutely zero sense, and so you’ll need to clarify.

“Aside from the plethora of contradictions — which are relevant, but not crucial for establishing unreliability…”

As has been demonstrated in recent years, the number of so-called contradictions is totally overblown, and has been heavily addressed. The most recent literature, through a greater understanding of ancient historical literature and literary compositional devices, has demonstrated that the number of contradictions in the Gospels is either rather small or non-existent. Just last year, in 2016, Oxford University Press published a landmark monograph titled ‘Why Are There Differences In The Gospels’. The author notes that the Gospels belong to the genre of Graeco-Roman biography (as demonstrated by Richard Burridge in the 1990’s), and so he analyzes the plethora of Graeco-Roman biographies written by Plutarch. Based off his observations of Plutarch’s compositional devices, the author discovered that a large number of differences between the same narrative are actually caused by literary compositional devices, not contradictions. The author then used his newfound understanding of these compositional devices and applied them to the differences in the Gospel accounts, and found that most of them sink.

For the note, the author still thinks there are a few contradictions in the Gospels without reserve. He simply demonstrated to academia that most of them are actually not there at all. This groundbreaking book sheds much light on both Gospel differences and literary compositional devices from ancient times for scholars.

Hence, contradiction accusations are totally overblown, as historians have demonstrated, and can’t conceivably challenge the reliability of the Gospels.

Hopefully that will get rid of your annoying arrogance.


Round Two: Professor Taboo

For Scientific Christian —

I think further explanation of Nan’s intent for this post is in order before I proceed with you.

First and foremost, if you are able to refrain from childish, snide personal remarks/opinions about a stranger’s character and stay on topic (i.e. the veracity of the New Testament – NT), then I gladly accept Nan’s offer to us and everyone here to dialogue with you (here) about the Canonical NT… humbly and according to Nan’s stated parameters & conditions of etiquette. I’ll respectfully remind you that you and I know NOTHING personal about each other; we are complete strangers and as such, any snide jabs at a “complete stranger’s” person is utterly unnecessary toward the subject at hand. In fact, snide jabs reflect a particular maturity level; it’s best you check-it from here on out if you want to be taken serious. I believe too that Nan made this very clear, above, in her post. Let’s abide by it SC. Please do not take any of this personally. I’m merely repeating Nan’s initial intention for this post.

Secondly, as I recall, Nan did not set any parameters on HER followers or participants here about…

…the debate is to be organized between our blogs, where we will both posts introductory defenses for our claims, then two or three rebuttals, and finally concluding statements. A written dialogue/debate, so to speak.

I will remain here and engaged with you and any others as long as you keep to the subject, follow the first condition of etiquette Nan stated above, and our exchanges remain informative for all concerned… for this controversial topic (the veracity of the canonical NT) is typically a VERY lengthy discussion/debate and requires exceptional patience, articulation, reasonable (not perfect) syntax, and common courtesy/decency between everyone involved. If you agree with Nan’s and my two conditions here, I am happy to proceed. So, assuming you abide by Nan’s parameters as well as mine, I will address 2 of your responses above.

Prefacing sidenote — When I state the NT, henceforth I’m referring to the Greek-version of the 4th-century canonical New Testament. Realize also SC that by jumping only into the tiny, narrow topic of the NT as others here have pointed out, we are skipping many other major confusions & controversies about the historical context & conflict of Jewish Messianism dating back to the 8th-century BCE between several sects of Judiasm. Omitting this history in our discussion setups many problems with NT exegesis, especially Paul’s. Keep this in mind.

Regarding clarification of “pre-Paulinian theology” I mentioned, on a chronological timeline, the resurrection story and Synoptic gospels were written, or they are dated, well after Paul’s epistles. Therefore, because the canonical NT is so heavily full of his epistles (8 to 13 of the 27 books: 48% – 30%? and by default his theology) and Christian followers today rely heavily on Paul’s earliest interpretations of the Messiah/Christ via word-of-mouth from the disciples/followers of “The Way” then thru Paul’s epistles… I distinguish this crucial dynamic about Paul’s letters to emphasize the serious rift between original Jewish Messianism (pre-Paulian) versus Paul’s “conversion” from the Pharisees and his subsequent learning of “The Way” (which likely includes his obscure years in Arabia where a Nasara-Nasorean sect existed) until his first extant epistle to the Thessalonians c. 52 CE. In other words, you should agree that Paul’s beliefs drastically changed from pre-Damascus Road to post-Damascus Road, yes? Thus, my additional distinction above.

To further clarify, it’s worthy to note that Paul’s epistles never discuss, mention, or narrate many/most of the later Synoptic gospel’s events, nor the apparent magnitude of the “resurrection details” which would elaborate later pseudo-trinitarian theology. Again, the distinction between pre-Damascus Road Paul and post-Damascus Road Paul. Why is this so important? Paul’s “theology” is much different than “The Way’s” exegesis and Jesus’ closest original sect-members both outside and later inside Jerusalem. The implications of this divergence (also alluded to in the book of Acts) is critical in deciphering exactly WHO Jesus was and was not… i.e. Jewish Messianism or Paulinian (Arabian?) Messianism? Jesus’ JEWISH heritage, required for later “messianic prophecies,” can never be completely separated from him or our known teachings by him.

Regarding clarification of my “Greco-Roman-Constantinian” reference, I assumed you knew well ancient history of the region, especially surrounding the formation of your faith and the canonization of your bible. My apologies.

Judea and Jerusalem, after Persian rule, were ruled by the Greek Empire and Alexander the Great (332 BCE – 140 BCE), hence the Greco reference. It was followed by the Seleucid Empire which fell to Judea’s Hasmonean dynasty — I didn’t bother to note this time-period due to its brievity and insignificance to our purpose here.

That was followed by the Roman Herodian Tetrarchy in 4 BCE. This was followed by TOTAL provincial rule of Rome and at the time of emperor Augustus in 6 CE. Between the Herodian Tetrarchy and complete domination of Judea-Jerusalem by Rome from the Roman penisula (c. 60 – 75 CE), this timeframe is utterly essential to understand when discussing Messianism! Hence the Roman reference.

These are the contextual roots that later formed the well-known incessant upheaval, unrest, and Jewish (zealot) rebellions surrounding Jesus’ Jerusalem, and certainly after his death, up through the next two centuries into Emperor Constantine’s rule. Hence, the Constantine reference.

This leads us/me to the highly misunderstood doctrinal and theological bickering/fighting among non-Diaspora Jews and earliest Christian leaders and followers that ended at the behest of Emperor Constantine’s First Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. At Nicaea, some 300-years AFTER the events surrounding Yeshua/Jesus and Paul’s exegesis (which didn’t align with original Jewish Messianism), Constantine and his closest bishops threw out some 35-57(?) testaments & exegetical Yeshua’s/Jesus’ teachings and stories THEY felt, in THEIR time & context, best represented Greco-Roman-Constantinian Christianity, say… as opposed to Gnotic Christianity. This falls completely in line with Roman sociopolitical governing both on the penisula and in their distant provinces. Emperor Constantine followed this long-standing imperial tradition to the tee. Interestingly, he nor his bishops ever had any hint of 1st-century CE Judean culture involving scriptural Messianism, much less first-hand experience or an intimate understanding of Jewish Messianism which Jews fiercly protected from Gentiles. This strongly suggests (factual?) that all involved at the First Council of Nicaea could not have had precise knowledge & understanding of true Jewish Messianism making their canonization process contaminated, suspect at best.

So finally we get back to my original question for you: offering INDEPENDENT1st century CE non-Judeo-Christian sources for the corroboration of events in the NT Synoptic gospels. More importantly & specifically the resurrection story, a singular theological foundation of Christianity’s asserted uniqueness.

In your response you misunderstood, saying:

…from what I can get at, you want a 1st century source written by a non-Christian substantiating the resurrection of Jesus and the historicity of the Gospels.

Not simply “non-Christian,” but sources NOT Judeo-Roman, not Judeo-Christian or not Gentile-Christian corroborating the resurrection. There are necessary distinctions and obvious loyalties in authorships. That said, my three distinctions cannot be (understandably) purely impartial to the events surrounding Jesus, the resurrection, and portions of the Synoptic gospels. For example, the brief mention(s) by Josephus regarding the events of the Synoptic gospels and a Christ/Messiah movement — despite that most all antiquity scholars today agree his accounts have been tampered with by the Church — are from a Roman-Jewish bias, thereby making his account(s) DEPENDENT rather than independent. And despite Josephus’ vague closeness to the events, the fact that he says so very little about the events surrounding the newer Messiah-Movement is noteworthy. It suggests the several prior occurences of claims to the Jewish Messiahship, common-place during the time, are not deserving of front-page headlines in Josephus’ account(s). Or to-date any other’s accounts. As a footnote, even a pure Roman-citizen’s account like a Praetor, Consul or Senator would suffice. There are a couple (along with many others much less relevant to the resurrection) that are cited by Christian apologists…

The Roman senator Tacitus’ reference of a crucifixion of “a Christ” and his references of the ‘New-Movement’ or earliest-Christianity in his Annals (116 CE) helps corroborate 1st-century CE Messianism and a new splinter-movement (Christians) also portrayed in the Synoptic gospels, but it does not corroborate any resurrection stories, a monumental pillar of core Christian theology.

The historian Thallus’ assumed reference ONLY to Jesus’ crucifixion and splinter-movement (via Eusebius, via Julius Africanus several decades later) is not only an unverifiable third-hand quote, but the timeframe when Thallus wrote the reference is highly debateable and hence unreliable.

When these non-resurrection accounts are joined with the fact that the earliest/oldest extant full gospel, Mark, inside the Codex Sinaiticus Bible (c. 350 CE) one of four 4th-century codices, also omits the events surrounding Jesus’ resurrection! In other words, one of the oldest complete versions of the FIRST written gospel account of Jesus’ teachings and death… leaves out any sort of resurrection story. Why is this so huge you and others may ask?

If Paul never mentions any resurrection of Jesus in his epistles — which in theological terms erases divine, miraculous, paranormal qualities that were never part of original Jewish Messianism anyway — and there exists no non-Judeo-Roman, no non-Judeo-Christian, or no non-Gentile-Christian accounts to corroborate the resurrection story in the Synoptic Gospels, this is what is known as bias, not independent corroboration. Which leads me back to the heavy Greco-Roman-Constantinian influences upon sociopolitical and socioreligious practices within the 1st thru 4th-century CE Roman Empire, including the Levant:

From Alexander the Great to Constantius I, it is a clear & known historical feature of imperial ruling that the Supreme Leader (Caesar in this case) take on Divine qualities, and yes, definitely by 305 CE. This ascension greatly assisted in not only keeping the empire’s masses subjugated, but aided in staving-off would-be usurpers. This strongly suggests WHY a divine resurrection story/myth gained more popularity post-3rd century CE as the Roman Empire began collapsing from within and without, ala the later two empires; seated in Rome & Byzantium-Constantinople.

I am stopping here because the remainder of your above comment-response was about your “scathing critique” 😉 of my methodology, granted abbreviated, but which is now more extensively answered & explained here. It was followed by several personal conjectures on your part that, for the sake of time and space here, I will bypass.

I leave you to it SC.


Round Two: Scientific Christian

Looks like things can get started here.

“First and foremost, if you are able to refrain from childish, snide personal remarks/opinions about a stranger’s character and stay on topic (i.e. the veracity of the New Testament – NT), then I gladly accept Nan’s offer to us and everyone here to dialogue with you (here) about the Canonical NT…”

At last. Since we have to get started some time or later, and since this full debate will be taking place between our blogs, perhaps you’d accept the following debating format;

Question: Are you Gospels historically reliable? (Scientific Christian: Yes | Professor Taboo: No)

Taboo: Opening
SC: Opening
Taboo: First Rebuttal
SC: First Rebuttal
Taboo: Second Rebuttal
SC: Second Rebuttal
Taboo: Closing Argument
SC: Closing Argument

Any other type of format you’d like? I’m fine going first or second in the debate. Anyways, I totally agree on respecting one another. I’m also fine with Nan’s ‘rules’, so to speak. I’ll start by simply addressing your remarks;

“In other words, you should agree that Paul’s beliefs drastically changed from pre-Damascus Road to post-Damascus Road, yes? Thus, my additional distinction above.”

The only view of Paul that changed from before his experience with Jesus on the Damascus road to after is his belief in Jesus and his understanding of the Old Testament, it seems to me.

“Why is this so important? Paul’s “theology” is much different than “The Way’s” exegesis and Jesus’ closest original sect-members both outside and later inside Jerusalem. ”

Paul’s interpretation of Jesus and theology was actually identical to that of the original disciples, as we can confirm.

Galatians 2:6-10 Now from those recognized as important (what they once were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism)—they added nothing to me. On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter was for the circumcised, since the one at work in Peter for an apostleship to the circumcised was also at work in me for the Gentiles. When James, Cephas, and John—those recognized as pillars—acknowledged the grace that had been given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to me and Barnabas, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They asked only that we would remember the poor, which I had made every effort to do.

Paul had relationships with the original followers of Jesus, and he came together with all of them to ensure that the gospel he was preaching was the same as the gospel preached by the pillars of the Church — John, Peter and James. Anyhow, you continue using the word ‘Paulinian’ which is still confusing. As I told you before, the term ‘Paulinian’ is inaccurate, it’s ‘Pauline’. You also misunderstood my criticism of your use of the term ‘Constantinian’ when you said “…2nd and 3rd century CE Greco-Roman-Constantinian “evidence”?” The problem with this phrase is that Constantine became emperor in the 4th century AD, not the 2nd or 3rd centuries AD, as you falsely state. I know I’m nitpicking here on a small error on your part, but you totally misunderstood my criticism and went off the rails trying to explain the full history from Alexander the Great to the end of the 1st century AD.

“Constantine and his closest bishops threw out some 35-57(?) testaments & exegetical Yeshua’s/Jesus’ teachings and stories THEY felt, in THEIR time & context, best represented Greco-Roman-Constantinian Christianity, say… as opposed to Gnotic Christianity.”

The depiction of what happened at the Council of Nicaea here is false in every step of the way. Constantine organized the Council of Nicaea but took no part in the actual debates or whatnot. He only gathered the council to try to unify the church and that was his only concern. Secondly, the bishops present were not Constantine’s closest bishops, they were some of the hundreds of top bishops throughout the Roman Empire. Constantine invited some 1,500 bishops overall, but only some 318 attended the council. So, rather than this being an event where Constantine slyly gathers his close bishops to create his secretly create own canon based on his preferences, what really happened was that several hundred bishops were gathered throughout Rome to debate the relationship between the Son and the Father.

The canon of the New Testament was not discussed at all in the Council of Nicaea. Thus, Constantine and his sneaky bishops couldn’t have thrown out any “35-57(?) testaments & exegetical Yeshua’s/Jesus’ teachings and stories”, since that had nothing to do with their council at the first place. The only thing that came out of the Council of Nicaea was the following creed;

“We believe…in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten from the Father, only-begotten, that is, from the substance of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one substance (homoousios) with the Father, through Whom all things were made….”

That’s really the only thing that came out of the Council of Nicaea. The canon wasn’t discussed at all, and so your claim that the Council of Nicaea created a “contaminated” canon is incomprehensible at best. Messianism also wasn’t discussed there, which makes your comment even more confusing. What is your source for any of this Nicaea stuff anyways?

“For example, the brief mention(s) by Josephus regarding the events of the Synoptic gospels and a Christ/Messiah movement — despite that most all antiquity scholars today agree his accounts have been tampered with by the Church — are from a Roman-Jewish bias, thereby making his account(s) DEPENDENT rather than independent.”

This is a total non-sequitur, “Josephus was a Jew, meaning he was biased towards Christianity (even though he wasn’t a Christian), and thus he was dependent on Christians” — none of this makes any sense whatsoever. Josephus account in Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.3.3 has been tampered with but is partially authentic nonetheless, and Josephus also mentions Jesus in Antiquities of the Jews XX.9.1 anyways, an entirely authentic passage, and even mentions John the Baptist in Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.5.2, another authentic passage. Josephus totally corroborates the Gospels. You then go on to say that Josephus doesn’t talk too much about Jesus much, so he must have thought that messianic claims were commonplace. This is another non-sequitur and doesn’t follow. Besides, historians don’t think messiah-claimaints were commonplace anyway. You then go on to point out that Thallus and Tacitus don’t talk about the resurrection, which is true enough, but it’s important to note I never cited them in the first place.

Anyways, Mark clearly mentions the resurrection. Even assuming 16:9-20 is a later addition (which has been challenged in recent years), Mark mentions a resurrection. The women enter Jesus’ tomb, find it empty, and then are told by an angel “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.” Jesus also predicts his death and resurrection multiple times in the Gospel of Mark (8:31; 9:31; 10:34; 14:27–28), and tells the disciples that after he rises from the dead, he will go ahead of them to Galilee (14:28), and the disciples are reminded this after they visit the empty tomb by the angel (16:7). Therefore, it is clear that Mark was both fully aware of and mentioned the resurrection of Jesus. The Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John also speak about the resurrection at length.

“If Paul never mentions any resurrection of Jesus in his epistles — which in theological terms erases divine, miraculous, paranormal qualities that were never part of original Jewish Messianism anyway — and there exists no non-Judeo-Roman, no non-Judeo-Christian, or no non-Gentile-Christian accounts to corroborate the resurrection story in the Synoptic Gospels”

This just doesn’t work. For one, the gospel accounts corroborate each other — Matthew and Luke used independent resurrection traditions from Mark, and it’s already well-known that John is independent of the Synoptics. Secondly, Paul DOES mention the resurrection — a LOT. It’s all over his epistles. So Paul corroborates the resurrection. Then, you also have the pre-Pauline creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 which dates to a few years, if not months after the death of Jesus, further corroborating the resurrection. We have numerous sources that corroborate this overall thesis.

Lastly, I need to draw attention back to your methodology. Apparently, you don’t accept any Roman, Christian or Jewish sources. This doesn’t work, because Roman, Christian, and Jewish sources are all valid. This was my scathing critique of your methodology, and you did not defend your (totally unwarranted) claim that such great sources are unusable. Lastly, your response made no mention of the large amount of corroboration for the Gospels I made note of in my previous response.


Round Three: Professor Taboo

For Scientific Christian (SC) and continuing discussion above…

I’m going to abbreviate your last above comments-replies to save time and space. I hope this laborious formatting works. :/ I also hope the web links work correctly too. Apologies in advance if this goes bad. Haha 😛

You/SC stated last:

Taboo: Opening
SC: Opening
Taboo: First Rebuttal
SC: First Rebuttal…

Me/PT:
I doubt you’d be fine with going first, stopping silent & leave ME with the last/final rebuttal & closing argument. In my 27-years with these sorts of discussions, they rarely follow an exact rigid format like you’ve set out. I could be wrong about you. 😉 That said, it seems then we are already into the second-round(?) before closing arguments, and I’m fine with that.
******************************

You/SC stated last:

I’ll start by simply addressing your remarks;
[…]
The only view of Paul that changed…

Me/PT:
It seems to me” would be correct. I think there is MUCH MORE to pre-Damascus Road to post-Damascus Road.

If you choose to gaze through strictly one lens, that of Paul’s own epistles & perhaps selected NT passages about Paul, then your above view is understandable. So be it, that is a mainstream median Christian-preserving posture. However, I do disagree and argue, there are more than one valid, highly plausible-to-plausible collections of sources to gain a broader set of lenses, and hence, a more complete picture of Saul from Tarsus. For instance, the Jewish Encyclopedia (after all, Saul was a Hellenistic Pharisee versus a Hebrew/OT scholar), is one popular, common, reliable biographical source. Paul was also an epileptic, which by the way, in Antiquity most epileptics had frequent seizures. Regarding Paul’s conversion:

There is possibly a historical kernel to the story related in the Acts (vii. 58-ix. 1-31, xxii. 3-21, xxvi. 10-19), that, while on the road to Damascus, commissioned with the task of exterminating the Christian movement antagonistic to the Temple and the Law (ib. vi. 13), Paul had a vision in which Jesus appeared to him, saying, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (comp. I Sam. xxvi. 18); that in consequence of this vision he became, with the aid of Ananais, one of the Christian seers, “a chosen vessel unto me [Christ], to bear my name before the Gentiles.” According to the Acts (vii. 58; ix. 2; xxii. 5; xxv. 1, 10-12), Paul was a young man charged by the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem with the execution of Stephen and the seizure of the disciples of Jesus. The statement, however (ib. xxii. 8-9), that, being a zealous observer of the law of the Fathers, “he persecuted the Church unto death,” could have been made only at a time when it was no longer known what a wide difference existed between the Sadducean high priests and elders, who had a vital interest in quelling the Christian movement, and the Pharisees, who had no reason for condemning to death either Jesusor Stephen. In fact, it is derived from the Epistle to the Galatians (i. 13-14), the spuriousness of which has been shown by Bruno Baur, Steck, and most convincingly by Friedrich Maehliss (“Die Unechtheit des Galaterbriefs,” 1891). The same is the case with Phil. iii. 5. Acts xxii. 17-18 speaks of another vision which Paul had while in the Temple, in which Jesus told him to depart from Jerusalem and go with his gospel to the Gentiles. Evidently Paul entertained long before his vision those notions of the Son of God which he afterward expressed; but the identification of his Gnostic Christ with the crucified Jesus of the church he had formerly antagonized was possibly the result of a mental paroxysm experienced in the form of visions.“*

*[http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13232-saul-of-tarsus]

Another good source is The Ancient History Encyclopedia:

However, ‘convert’ [to Christ or Jesus] is not the most accurate term to be applied to [Paul]. Conversion assumes changing from one kind of belief to another. There are two problems with this concept as applied to Paul:

1) at the time, there was essentially no Christian religion for him to convert to; and
2) Paul himself is ambiguous when it comes to understanding what he would have considered himself.

When he says: “When among the gentiles, I acted as a gentile, and when among the Jews, I acted as Jew; I was all things to all men,” doesn’t help us resolve the question. In talking about what happened to Paul, it is probably better to say that he was called by God, in the tradition of the calling of prophets of ancient Israel.“*

*[http://www.ancient.eu/Paul_the_Apostle/]

These are just two of many cross-referencing sources. It is not any stretch to decide that Paul’s vision-conversion, for an epileptic, was powerfully dramatic as it is for any epileptic unable to receive modern medical aid/treatment.
******************************

SC:

Paul’s interpretation of Jesus and theology was actually identical to that of the original disciples, as we can confirm.” […]

Me:
You offered just Galatians 2:6-10. In contrast, if one reads further (v.11-16), we determine there was in fact dissension between Paul and at least Peter and Barnabas, and probably other leaders/apostles around Antioch which forced the matters to the Jerusalem Council:

But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

What Paul is explaining in verses 14-16 are what the ‘Judiazers’ Stephen, Peter, and James the brother (probably more) are and are not adhering to and misleading churches from the Laws of Moses that Paul (the Hellenist) is opposing. Paul, who never met Jesus face-to-face, in the flesh, never spent any length of time with Jesus during his ministry, is opposing and attempting to correct the “pillars” of the Jesus-Movement, Stephen, Peter, James the brother, and likely more! HAH! Dissension indeed.

But I want to go even further with this, Acts 6:1 thru 8:4.

Here we have a clear implication that there were TWO opposing camps: A) Paul’s Hellenistic-Gentile doctrines & theology, versus B) Jesus’ closest disciples, the ‘Judaizers,’ and their doctrines/theology. Acts 15 also corroborates this early rift. Because Paul did not win the arguments against the “pillars,” in anger he backtracks on his ‘expertise’ stating he is independent of any human exegesis, claiming his is thru a paranormal revelation from Jesus in the sky: Galatians 1:1-24. Paul’s hatred for Judaism, and now the ‘Judaizers’ (disciples/apostles) grows larger:

Romans 2:21-24 — “You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? 24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.

Then perhaps his most hateful discourse on Judaism/Judaizers (inclusive of course to maligned disciples/apostles), is Romans 9 thru Romans 11 and slamming Judaism/Judaizers in 9:31. Paul’s antinomianism culminates in Galatians 3.

For me SC, if anything can be inferred by these additional passages, is that the meaning and purpose of a Greco-Gentile-Christ (Paul’s Christ), with Jewish/Judaizer Messianism and OT Laws, and those two forced into a NT God and all becoming prestinely clear… is looking strictly at Paul through one single small lens while ignoring other NT passages and extraneous related sources.

You’re correct about the reign of Constantine: you’re being very nitpicky. His reign was 306 to 337 CE. However, what I perhaps didn’t make perfectly clear (syntax, etc) was that the controversy, splintering, dissension amongst disciples, apostles, and eventually Roman bishops over WHO Jesus really was in relation to his Jewish background and teachings, and in relation to God, was vehemently argued from c. 40 CE (post-Pauline conversion) all the way up to c. 370 CE (during his reign), and after the Second Council of Nicaea. Splitting hairs. As the adage might go here, 1 or 2 tree-branches, but missing the forest. 😉
*******************************

SC:

The depiction of what happened at the Council of Nicaea here is false…” […]

Me:
I think you are again missing the forest SC by focusing on 2 (personally?) preferred trees.

To your first two paragraphs there, I ask, How did they know what to discuss about the Son, Father, and composing a Creed? I guarantee you and others here that those small group of bishops gathered at Nicaea (both times) could NOT have discussed with any reliability or progress the relationships between Christ, what “Christ” meant (i.e. Messiah/Christ/Messianism), the relationship between he and God, or condensed the debated points all into a ‘precise’ representation for Roman-Constantinian churches to memorize, learn, and unify. This begs the question: Where was the confusion/controversy coming from, originally? The answer: the many circulating manuscripts/testaments (35-47?) of Jesus’ teachings and then Paul’s contentious Hellenistic “scholarship” of anti-Judaism, i.e. probably why he focused (or was pushed to focus?) on the Gentiles and the Council of Jerusalem (the two most influential there, Peter & James the brother of Jesus) thought Paul would be better received out among the Gentiles than with the Judeo-Christians in the Levant. As we might exclaim today, “Go do your worst/best Saul!” but not here.

Regarding further my number of 35-47 non-canonical manuscripts, here is a chart-graphic of just the ‘Big Six’ extraneous testaments about Jesus, the apostles, and church theology that are NOT in today’s NT.

Here’s a portion of testaments/manuscripts NOT listed in the chart-graphic, in chronological order: the Essene letter to Alexandria, Q(uelle), the E-fragments, 1 Clement, Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Peter, Gospel of Matthias, Hebrews Gospel, Egyptian Gospel, Ebionite Gospel, Acts of Andrew, the four Apocyrphal Gospels of Judas, Nicodemus, James, and Philip (Coptic), and 2 Clement.

It’s really no wonder why even 300-YEARS was never sufficient to intimately understand the origins of Christianity, let alone WHO Jesus was and his exact purpose. Ask yourself why and why not.

Here’s a set of my primary sources or cross-references (not exhaustive) for my current conclusions on this subject:

The 4th-century CE Canonical Bible (most any version)
The Bible Through the Ages
The Catholic Encyclopedia
The Jewish Encyclopedia
The Cambridge History of Christianity series

And of course, I am not the ONLY person who has these conclusions on this subject. 🙂
***********************************

SC:

This is a total non-sequitur, “Josephus was a Jew, meaning he was biased towards…”
[…]
“Anyways, Mark clearly mentions…

Me:
Non-sequitur? Starting out with our discussion here and given time-parameter constraints on you, me, Nan, and anyone else, I was utilizing some inductive reasoning to convey my questions, premises, and conclusions. I don’t think this VAST subject, covering 2,100+ years of antiquity, history, mystery, myths, gods, and legends can be exhaustively & contextually covered in a very brief debate here. Not at all actually. Besides, I’m doing this for other curious readers; not really looking to “convert” someone to anything. Merely hoping they’ll THINK and think expansively and objectively and decide on their own.

Correction to you above: Josephus was a Roman citizen AND a Jew. But not just A Jew, but trained/taught by the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Essenes (Qumran) of which Jesus and John the Baptist had ties. Hence, the bias when referencing him as a “non-Christian” source to the historicity of Jesus. His accounts MUST be weighed in this light. From the Jewish Encyclopedia – Importance for the Christian Church:

The works of Josephus were rescued by the Christian Church, for whom, like Philo, the author occupies the rank of a Church father. The “Antiquities” was of importance because it illuminates the history of the New Testament and on account of the few notes which it contains dealing with Christendom. Josephus mentions John the Baptist; James, the brother of Jesus; and Jesus himself (“Ant.” xviii. 3, § 3). In its present form, this passage can not have originated with Josephus (see Jesus). Eusebius (“Hist. Eccl.” iii. 9, § 2) considers Josephus to have been the most learned man of his day [bias]; and Jerome (“Ep. xxii. ad Eustachium”) calls him “the Greek Livy.” [more bias] The Byzantine chroniclers based their writings largely upon Josephus; and his “Antiquities” was taken over into many works (see Hegesippus). It can not be denied that he possessed extraordinary literary talents; and his desire to glorify his people ought not to be accounted to his dishonor. It is true that he was disingenuous in his dealings with his people; but he wrote an exemplary apology for them. He was vain and self-seeking; but he also fought and worked much.

[http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8905-josephus-flavius#anchor8]

Josephus corroborates an existence of Jesus, his splinter-Movement, John the Baptist, and James the brother of Jesus, but his accounts are certainly NOT extensive documentaries about Christianity and its major players. And certainly not about any resurrection, the biggest component of Christian theology today that personally I am emphasizing. I think it very unfair/biased for you to say sweepingly “Josephus totally corroborates the Gospels” when that is not at all the general scholarly consensus.* How much of the Gospels are authentic is still very much a heated debate amongst the historical-biblical consensus, not the least of which regards the lack of resurrection stories in the earliest manuscripts.

*[https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jesus/The-Jewish-religion-in-the-1st-century#toc222994]

Other Messiah claimants (just prior to & during Josephus’ life & writings) in order from 4 BCE to 135 CE:

Simon of Peraea, Athronges, Simon Magus, Simon bar Kokhba, Dositheos the Samaritan, and even Vespasian.*

I think this indicates not only how fervently the 1st & 2nd-century CE Jews sought and yearned for their Messiah, but also shows that many claimed “Messiah” and made the spectacle common-place in Josephus’ time and opinion.

*[Josephus’ Jewish War 6.312-313]

In your last paragraph of this section, you’ve missed my point: not ALL the oldest, credible, extant Mark gospels continue beyond verse 8, e.g. Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (4th century CE), both Codices highly regarded. This is why most credible gospel versions have an asterisk after Mark 16:1-8. Hence, verses 9-20 are LATER additions (after 300 CE) and not 100% reliable. Are there differences between risen, gone, resurrected or “an empty tomb”? See, I do not think it’s clear. And of course the gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John are going to include the sociopolitical afterthought because they were written significantly LATER than Mark when the Movement/Church was increasingly divided on theological-doctrinal issues of WHO Jesus really was — and as I’ve alluded to with Paul’s Hellenist-Christ. And again, none of Paul’s epistles mention or discuss the literal resurrection story. Why? His epistles were written well before these two Codices.

I’m sure you will disagree here with my contrasting viewpoint so we’ll just have to leave it at that.
******************************

SC:

This just doesn’t work. For one, the gospel accounts…”
[…]
“Lastly, I need to draw attention back to your methodology. Apparently…

Me:
Ahhh, I see now that I initially should’ve clarified better what I meant by “resurrection.” There are many semantic variances with different words in context with different cultures and languages. In my haste and frequent interruptions (work & home) I failed to go far enough into this semantic confusion. My mistake. With informal discussions/debate like these I sometimes forget to explain the differences between empty tomb and resurrection. Most laypersons today don’t distinguish the two terms (as I just did, but) as I believe they have to be. For many today, they have the connotation of being synonyms. I accidentally used them that way. Sorry. In the end, I hope you and everyone else (still) following these dissertations 😉will see how EASY it is to confuse and misunderstand these idioms as one.

Grab snacks, a drink, and a recliner. This will take awhile…

Many words/idioms in English (King James Version or modern) have degrees of variance in meaning, similar to synonyms. This is absolutely true with other languages both extant, near-extinction, or extinct but tangible-fragments and manuscripts have preserved their ancient use. This certainly factors into our discussion here. What “resurrection” means to modern Westerners today, means something slightly-to-entirely different to 2nd century CE peoples in and around the Levant. In ancient Judea, Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin were the four common languages and each of those had dialects based on community cultures. Here’s the pertinent question: does a word/idiom in ANY of those four languages translate PERFECTLY into English? No, not 100% of the time.

Is risen identical to resurrection? Is raised from the dead identical to empty tomb? Are these four meanings different in English compared to Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic? Here lies the semantic variances that often are lost to or misunderstood by the layperson over time from manuscript translations or transcultural oral-stories. I believe for Paul’s Hellenist Christ, resurrection did not lead to an empty tomb. But as was customary in Jewish burial traditions, a dead body is not left to rot and decay in a tomb/grave. The secondburial occurred about a year later (no more) when family members reentered the tomb, carefully took the bones of the deceased (once the flesh had completely decomposed), and placed them in a specially prepared, separate container known as an ossuary (from Latin os, “a bone”). This practice ended by the middle or end of the 3rd century CE. This Jewish burial process is important to keep in mind when reading/interpreting Paul’s epistles concerning resurrection and empty tomb. But we can’t stop here. More distinction is required.

(apologies to everyone this subject/rebuttal is so damn long, intensive & about to get worse. :/ )

Let’s consider Maccabean-Hasmonean (Hebrew) “resurrection” to later Hellenistic-Pauline resurrection.

Mac-Has Rez for Messianic Hope–

As a matter of fact, resurrection formed part of the Messianic hope (Isa. xxiv. 19; Dan. xii. 2; Enoch, xxv. 5, li. 1, xc. 33; Jubilees, xxiii. 30). Especially were those that died as martyrs in the cause of the Law expected to share in the future glory of Israel (II Macc. vii. 6, 9, 23; Yal?. to Isa. xxvi. 19; Midr. Teh. xvii. 14; Sibyllines, ii. 85). The very term used to express the idea of sharing in the future life is “to inherit the land” (?id. i. 10; Matt. v. 5, after Ps. xxxvii. 11; Sanh. xi. 1, with reference to Isa. lx. 21). The resurrection, therefore, was believed to take place solely in the Holy Land (Pesi?. R. i., after Ps. cxvi. 9 [“the land of the living,” that is, “the land where the dead live again”]; or Gen. R. lxxiv.: Yer. Ket. xii. 35b, with reference to Isa. xlii. 5 [“He giveth breath to the people upon it,” that is, upon the Holy Land only]). Jerusalem alone is the city of which the dead shall blossom forth like grass (Ket. 111b, after Ps. lxxii. 16). Those that are buried elsewhere will therefore be compelled to creep through cavities in the earth until they reach the Holy Land (Pesi?. R. l.c., with reference to Ezek. xxxvii. 13; Ket. 111a).“*

Mac-Has Rez tradition vs. Jesus–

The story of the resurrection of Jesus is the natural consequence of the belief of his followers in his miraculous powers as the subduer of Satan. Indeed, it is stated that it was not he alone who arose from the grave, but that many saints arose with him (Matt. xxvii. 52) just as many saints in Jewish folk-lore overcame death (Shab. 55b; Mas. Derek Ere?, i.); and resurrection is the proof of the working of the Holy Spirit (So?ah xv. 15; Cant. R., Introduction, 9; see Resurrection). The disciples and the women who had been his constant companions when he was alive beheld him in their entranced state as partaking of their meals and heard him address to them instruction and argumentation (Matt. xxviii. 9, 18-20; Luke xxiv. 27-49; John xx. 15-xxi. 23). Many apparitions of Jesus after his death were in the course of time related as having taken place during his lifetime. Thus the strange stories of his walking at night as a spirit upon a lake (Matt. xiv. 24-36; Luke ix. 28-36; and parallels), of his transfiguration and conversation with Moses and Elijah (Matt. xvii. 1-13), and others became current in those credulous times when all the Apostles had their visions and direct communications from their master, whom they beheld as “the Son of Man in the clouds” waiting for “his return with myriads of angels” to take possession of this earth. And so it came about that, consciously or unconsciously, the crystallized thought of generations of Essenes and entire chapters taken from their apocalyptic literature (Matt. xxiv.-xxv.) were put into the mouth of Jesus, the acme and the highest type of Essenism.“**

*[http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12697-resurrection#anchor4]
**[http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8616-jesus-of-nazareth#anchor21]

Hell-Paul Rez 1 Cor. 15:36-42 —

How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.

I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

Four possible meanings to Paul’s Resurrection doctrine(s):

1 — The resurrection will leave the body of flesh unstirred, that resurrection involves the creation of a new and different spiritual body, leaving the physical body in the dust.
2 — The resurrection will not leave the body of flesh unstirred but that resurrection will transform the current body entirely into a spiritual, non-material body that is not located in space and time.
3 — The resurrection will transform the body into a supernatural, exalted flesh-and-bones body that retains material form.
4 — The resurrection will bring the body back into the same form of living on Earth as previously. This is a view that is not actually held as a good description for Paul’s doctrine.

Myself, along with other biblical-Pauline scholars, think #1 best suites Paul’s meaning of resurrection because in all of his attributed epistles he is SILENT about an empty tomb; this silence is more conducive for Judeo-Christians (Judaizers) of the time: it’s a varient of Jewish resurrection. Sadly for the Gentiles though — primarily Greek-Roman — this is HARD to wrap one’s head around! Staying loyal to his “calling to the Gentiles,” and inline with his tempermental bitterness toward Judaism and Judaizers:

Paul, the Hellenist, however, knowingly or unknowingly, seems to have taken the [Greek-Gentile] heathen cult associations as his pattern while introducing new features into the Church. To him baptism is no longer a symbolic rite suggestive of purification or regeneration, as in Jewish and Judæo-Christian circles (see Baptism), but a mystic rite by which the person that enters the water and emerges again undergoes an actual transformation, dying with Christ to the world of flesh and sin, and rising with him to the world of the spirit, the new life of the resurrection (Rom. vi. 1-10).

[http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13232-saul-of-tarsus#anchor13]

But further still and at the very least, all of this shows quite well that a generic resurrection-empty tomb (i.e. no physical body after one year) — a misunderstood idiom which increasingly became a major conflict going forward into the 3rd and 4th centuries CE — was introduced/twisted or revamped in LATER manuscripts/gospels for the swelling Gentile-Christian initiate communities/churches, but convoluting & contaminating the original meaning and purpose of Jewish Messiah. As it was Gentile-Greeks related better to a mystical-divine Christ than a dead Jewish Messiah.

Nevertheless, IMO, without INDEPENDENT corroboration of a literal, physical body gone from the tomb (empty) — to reiterate: not Judeo-Roman, not Judeo-Christian, and not Gentile-Christian sources — the matter about a LITERAL paranormal resurrection is inconclusive at best. And for a secularist/neutral person not emotionally bound, involved, & influenced by peer or familial pressures or the placebo-effect and/or halo-effect, while also considering that all possible sources to this veracity originate strictly within the NT and Church… cognitively and reasonably, it is not enough (or shouldn’t be enough) to convert to a Hellenistic-Pauline Catholic-Protestant religion purely on the premise of a (confused/confusing) 3rd and 4th century literal, bodily “resurrection” and ascension LEGEND. To emphasize again, this conclusion is aside from a theatrical emotional peer-assimilation or halo-reinforced “faith” effect.

⭐ — Final legal clause: there are probably spelling errors, syntax errors, formatting errors, etc., throughout this comment (dissertation?), but I hope they are few and trivial, not detracting from the content. 🙂

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I hope I’ve helped someone following/reading to EXPAND their knowledge and curiosity rather than confused it or obliterated it. Hahaha. Either way, at least this little (incomplete) debate might inspire someone to research & investigate the history of what we’ve covered with a wide-open mind and from several more qualified as well as available not-so-popular, extraneous, scholarly sources.

Now then, I believe this is the end of the Second Round and we are to the (short?) Closing Arguments, correct? Since this has been for the benefit (or torture 😛 ) of Nan’s readers, you are welcome SC to give your’s first if you’d like.


Round Three: Scientific Christian

Hello again, Taboo. I’ll begin by quoting you because you misunderstood my debate challenge;

I doubt you’d be fine with going first, stopping silent & leave ME with the last/final rebuttal & closing argument. In my 27-years with these sorts of discussions, they rarely follow an exact rigid format like you’ve set out. I could be wrong about you. 😉 That said, it seems then we are already into the second-round(?) before closing arguments, and I’m fine with that.

No! I did not mean a debate through some comment section — I meant that I, first (or you, it matters not who begins) post an opening argument defending the historical reliability of the Gospels on my own blog, and then you provide, on your own blog, an opening argument defending the thesis that the Gospels do not possess historical reliability. Then, I post a rebuttal on my blog, and then you post a rebuttal on your blog, etc. In that way, we can maintain an organized discourse that others will be able to go over if they so please, rather than a discourse between you and me wasted in the long comment sections of Nan’s blog. What we’re doing now is different, our discussion has already went completely off track from the main issue anyhow.

The Jewish Encyclopedia and Ancient History Encyclopedia are good sources for understanding the basics of a subject, however, they’re hardly scholarly sources. I, myself, have published an article on Ancient History Encyclopedia (hereafter AHE). I totally reject the baselessly asserted notion that Paul was an epileptic, and furthermore, the AHE author that asserted that Paul didn’t really convert to Christianity is out of his mind. These two encyclopedias, as well as the Catholic Encyclopedia and book The Bible through the ages that you go on to cite, are all useless.

As I noted in my previous response, the theology of Paul was identical to the theology of the pillars of the Church, John, Peter, and James, as demonstrated by Galatians 2:6-10. That’s that, their theology is in harmony. You try to draw attention to Galatians 2:11-16 where Paul rebukes Peter and then perform several exegetical backflips to try to identify some sort of different gospel between the Christians.

In Galatians 2, we see Peter eating with the Christian Gentiles, but as the Jewish Christians start entering, Peter becomes hypocritical and stops eating with the Gentiles and starts only eating with the Jews, basically caving in. The Jews separate themselves from the Gentiles, essentially creating two divided groups of Christians during eating (Gentiles and Jews). Paul quickly realizes what’s going on and rebukes Peter for distorting the gospel and acting as a hypocrite. During the later Jerusalem Council (Acts 15), Peter says this;

“Brothers and sisters, you are aware that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the gospel message and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he also did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now then, why are you testing God by putting a yoke on the disciples’ necks that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in the same way they are.”

Then, James goes on to say this;

“Brothers and sisters, listen to me. Simeon has reported how God first intervened to take from the Gentiles a people for his name. And the words of the prophets agree with this, as it is written: “After these things I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. I will rebuild its ruins and set it up again, so the rest of humanity may seek the Lord—even all the Gentiles who are called by my name—declares the Lord who makes these things known from long ago.”

In Galatians 2, we see that there is some sort of hypocrisy towards the gospel going on with the Judaizers, however, the advent of the Jerusalem Council put a permanent end to this problem where we see all the pillars coming together, including Paul, Barnabas, and the others, and all conform on their view of the Gentiles. Therefore, the theology of Paul is identical to that of the pillars (including Peter and James as seen), and all the Jerusalem Council demonstrated this (as well as that it demonstrated Peter responded to Paul’s rebuke, since Peter defends Paul in the Jerusalem Council).

“To your first two paragraphs there, I ask, How did they know what to discuss about the Son, Father, and composing a Creed? I guarantee you and others here that those small group of bishops gathered at Nicaea (both times) could NOT have discussed with any reliability or progress the relationships between Christ, what “Christ” meant (i.e. Messiah/Christ/Messianism), the relationship between he and God, or condensed the debated points all into a ‘precise’ representation for Roman-Constantinian churches to memorize, learn, and unify. This begs the question: Where was the confusion/controversy coming from, originally? The answer: the many circulating manuscripts/testaments (35-47?) of Jesus’ teachings and then Paul’s contentious Hellenistic “scholarship” of anti-Judaism, i.e. probably why he focused (or was pushed to focus?) on the Gentiles and the Council of Jerusalem (the two most influential there, Peter & James the brother of Jesus) thought Paul would be better received out among the Gentiles than with the Judeo-Christians in the Levant. As we might exclaim today, “Go do your worst/best Saul!” but not here.”

Again, none of this is true. The Council of Nicaea is well-documented, and nothing comprehensibly similar to what you describe occurred. The creed, twenty principles, and letter that came as a result of the 318 gathering bishops at the Council can be viewed here;
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3801.htm

The Council of Nicaea had nothing to do with the 35-47 “testaments” you allude to, nor did they discuss the messianic advent of Jesus. The following masterful video perfectly documents what happened at the Council of Nicaea;

You move on back to your claim regarding some “35-47 testaments” — as your own diagram illustrates, virtually every apocryphal work was almost unanimously rejected by the early Christians, and other apocryphal texts (like the Gospel of the Hebrews and Gospel of Thomas) were so adamantly rejected that they didn’t even acquire a mention on the diagram. But the diagram is clearly totally incomplete because it omits the canons of early Christians like Clement of Rome who also demonstrate great acceptance of a number of New Testament canonical books. Then, the diagram includes people like Marcion, a complete heretic. Excluding Marcion, notwithstanding the other problems of your diagram, it shows that only a single book of the New Testament was ever once considered non-canonical (Hebrews) by a single author (Tertullian), and also shows the apocryphal works were overwhelmingly rejected and ignored.

As for Josephus, again, Josephus was not a Christian and hence was not biased towards Christianity. Josephus corroborates John the Baptist (as well as a number of particular Gospel details about him), that Jesus had a brother named James, and that Jesus was championed by his followers as the Messiah.

“Other Messiah claimants (just prior to & during Josephus’ life & writings) in order from 4 BCE to 135 CE: Simon of Peraea, Athronges, Simon Magus, Simon bar Kokhba, Dositheos the Samaritan, and even Vespasian… I think this indicates not only how fervently the 1st & 2nd-century CE Jews sought and yearned for their Messiah, but also shows that many claimed “Messiah” and made the spectacle common-place in Josephus’ time and opinion.”

This list easily demonstrates just how rare claiming to be the Messiah was. From 4 BC to 135 AD, a span of almost a century and a half, only six recorded people ever claimed to be the Messiah besides Jesus. In other words, one person every two decades. This is amazingly rare, there were twice as many Roman emperors between 4 BC to 135 AD than there were messiah claimants.

In your last paragraph of this section, you’ve missed my point: not ALL the oldest, credible, extant Mark gospels continue beyond verse 8, e.g. Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (4th century CE), both Codices highly regarded. This is why most credible gospel versions have an asterisk after Mark 16:1-8. Hence, verses 9-20 are LATER additions (after 300 CE) and not 100% reliable. Are there differences between risen, gone, resurrected or “an empty tomb”? See, I do not think it’s clear. And of course the gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John are going to include the sociopolitical afterthought because they were written significantly LATER than Mark when the Movement/Church was increasingly divided on theological-doctrinal issues of WHO Jesus really was — and as I’ve alluded to with Paul’s Hellenist-Christ. And again, none of Paul’s epistles mention or discuss the literal resurrection story. Why? His epistles were written well before these two Codices.

As I’ve demonstrated in my previous response, even if one accepts that vv. 9-20 are later additions to Mark’s Gospel (which, again, has been challenged in recent years), Mark still clearly mentions a resurrection. As I noted earlier in our discussion:

The women enter Jesus’ tomb, find it empty, and then are told by an angel “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.” Jesus also predicts his death and resurrection multiple times in the Gospel of Mark (8:31; 9:31; 10:34; 14:27–28), and tells the disciples that after he rises from the dead, he will go ahead of them to Galilee (14:28), and the disciples are reminded this after they visit the empty tomb by the angel (16:7). Therefore, it is clear that Mark was both fully aware of and mentioned the resurrection of Jesus.

As for Paul’s epistles, they clearly endlessly discuss the resurrection. Just take a look at 1 Corinthians 15. You say that Paul doesn’t mention a “literal resurrection”, but just read the Greek text of 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul uses Greek terms like ἀνάστασις (anastasis) and ἐγείρω(egeiró) to reference Jesus’ resurrection, Greek terms that only apply to physical bodies getting out of a tomb and coming back to life (see embedded links to their Greek definitions). The idea of spiritual resurrection in the Pauline epistles is increasingly rejected in academia because 1) It contradicts the concept of resurrection in ancient Jewish, pagan, Greek, Roman thought, etc, 2) Clearly is incompatible with what Paul tells us, and 3) Contradicts the very Greek terms used by Paul to refer to Jesus’ resurrection. We have tons of corroborating sources for the resurrection, a bunch of Gospels, Paul’s letters, and then the early creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 dating to a few years if not months of the crucifixion of Jesus. You go on to claim that Paul doesn’t mention an empty tomb, however, Paul explicitly implies the existence of such an empty tomb where Paul says, about the body of Jesus, “that he was buried, that he was raised” (1 Cor. 15:4), and even more recently, the journal New Testament Studies published an excellent paper titled ‘Resurrection in Paganism and the Question of an Empty Tomb in 1 Corinthians 15’ by John Granger Cook, demonstrating that Paul could not have even believed that Jesus had been raised, lest he believed there was an empty tomb. Again, this claim about spiritual resurrection in Paul’s epistles is a dying breed among scholars, the latest and most extensive literature on the subject rightfully rejects this notion that is totally incompatible with all our evidence.

In conclusion for all of the points aforementioned; 1) Paul’s theology is the same as those of the pillars, 2) The Council of Nicaea did not do anything remotely similar as you describe, 3) Mark’s Gospel clearly has a resurrection, and 4) Paul mentions the physical resurrection and his epistles necessitate that there was an empty tomb.

Likewise, we’ve also seen that Josephus corroborate some details of the Gospels, the independent traditions throughout the Gospels corroborate each other, as well as further resurrection corroboration by both Paul and the early Pauline creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. Furthermore, archaeology clearly corroborates the Gospels as well. Just two decades ago, scholars tried to claim that synagogues didn’t exist in Palestine before 70 AD and so the Gospels were wrong when they mention Jesus preaching in Galilean synagogues, however, we have now found several pre-70 AD synagogues throughout Palestine (such as the one in Magdala). There is also an emerging relationship between the Gospel of John and archaeology in particular that I mentioned before. In 2008, Richard Bauckham demonstrated that the ratio of names found in the Gospels amazingly correlates to the historical ratios of names throughout Palestine in Jesus’ time, further showing that wherever we can historically test the Gospels, they come out accurate (interestingly, the second century apocryphal works have no such correlation, showing this is not just any sort of coincidence but demonstrative of valid history writing). The only possible conclusion given all our knowledge is that the Gospels are historically reliable, as acknowledged by many historians.


Round Four: Professor Taboo:

My Closing Remarks/Arguments between myself and Scientific Christian —

As our discussion/debate centered on three topics:

1) the veracity or reliability of the New Testament, in particular the “Resurrection” (or empty tomb) accounts,

2) the reliability or veracity of the Apostle Paul’s authentic Epistles/exegesis of the Gospel stories regarding Jesus as we have them today 2,000+ years later in the NT Canon, and

3) my primary contention of #1 and #2 not having extraneous or fully INDEPENDENT unbiased corroboration for many/much of the stories and teachings as found in the canonical Gospels

My final conclusion is that at minimum the NT (as a whole) is unnecessarily difficult to sort out and fully comprehend for any average modern person who is NOT a combined PhD professional in:

Philology (and by default modern linguistics)
Archaeology
History
Anthropology
Theology (or Eschatology & biblical Hermeneutics) and…
A creative-to-very-creative Imagination.

And at most the NT (as a whole) is better untangled and more discernable for someone today with combined PhD’s in:

Philology… with Anthology
Archaeology… with Romanization of the Mediterranean & Judaism of the Levant
History… with Sociology & Chronology
Anthropology… with applied Psychology
Theology… with applied Ecclesiology, Eschatology & biblical Hermeneutics of Judaism, Messianism, Sectarianism & Paulianism

Thaumaturgy… with Metaphysics and…
Time… Lots of it. An unbelievable amount of time in your life!

Why this minimum-maximum constrast? Glad you asked! 😉

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dilution, Convolution, Contamination —
Along with the #3 topic in my intro above, the approximate 27 books and epistles of the NT attempt to narrate a Jewish splinter-movement, its progression — after its leader was prematurely executed — followed by its successor’s attempts to keep the teachings/concepts alive and valid (as was possible or impossible) under severe OPPRESSIVE Roman laws and intolerance, over a 400-year period, AND keep it all accurate. Monumental task, but simply not possible. And it gets worse, MUCH worse.

Chronology —
What compounds the difficulty and confusion of this 400-year drama called the New Testament is that the approximate 27 books are not sequenced in order by date-written, they give sketchy inferred time-windows, or fail to designate an exact author(s), but are arranged in such a way to “tell a particular version of a story!” These four factors can NEVER be precisely confirmed today about the original narrative of events with 100% certainty, primarily because the Roman Empire and her efficient military machine was a violent, destructive, intolerant empire to her enemies/rebels throughout its whole existence. The consequences of such a form of governing and subjugation means MANY people die — along with their “stories” and legacy — and many artifacts (like scrolls, papyrus, jars, tablets, libraries, etc.) get destroyed, lost forever. Those items “hidden” exceptionally well from Rome may never be recovered. Yet, millions of Christians readily accept the jumbled order of the NT drama not asking anywhere NEAR enough questions.

Oil and Water, Bouncers and Nitroglycerin —
Roman anniliation also caused the smaller, less known Jewish ascetic groups — living outside of Jerusalem & opposed to Romanized Hellenized Jewish sects, e.g. Qumran & Masada — to be (almost) erased from history. ‘United you/we stand, but divided — like the 1st century Jewish sects were — you/we fall.‘ And so as the adage goes, “The victors always write history.” Rome’s better bigger legions, including their Hellenized Gentile associates from powder-keg Judea, write their approved version of history. Why? Because the opposition is either dead, scattered, or culturally-politically assimilated.

In the case of our NT (surviving) characters discussed here between c. 33 CE (Jesus’ death) and the Jewish Wars/Rebellions to c. 75 CE, very few of the ascetic Jewish sects outside Jerusalem (ala Masada, Qumran and any others not Hellenist like Jesus and John the Baptist; cousins), survived long enough to “preserve” THEIR authentic teachings. Those who did not survive would have been the people who knew very intimately the meaning and purpose of Messiah and Jewish Messianism. Like oil in water, Jewish Messianism DID NOT MIX with Hellenistic Mysticism. Period. They still don’t today in their original forms and contexts. Thus, incompatibility severely compounded the 400-year drama problems even more.

The residual effects of these three additional compounding conditions upon the roots and infancy of the NT can now be evidenced by the number of splinter-denominations first in the early-Church, then the Medieval-Catholic church, Eastern Empire churches, Anglican churches, and finally the endless number of Protestant churches. There’s essentially only ONE or TWO sources for such wide-spread distortion, fragmentation and disunity of Jesus’ original reformations. Pick your poison:

1) Rome and Hellenization (the victors)

2) The practical extinction of correct (pure) Jewish-Jesus Messianism of which Paul (and his epileptic ego?) completely tweaked, contorted, and/or overhauled from its original purpose and form.

I believe if anyone following these comments and discussion from day one, or those who later review and read previous comments down to my and SC’s closing remarks, can at the very least recognize they should ask more questions, a TON of questions not only from your current trusted sources, but wisely from INDEPENDENT sources not related in anyway to a or your own Christian church. Asking many questions from many sources, experts, and points-of-view I think you’ll be surprised, maybe astounded, about what you’ve ASSUMED was true (by orthodoxy), told to you or taught at face-value. It is not the whole story or picture, especially about true Jewish Messianism relative to Jesus. The fact that there was even a necessary canonization process covering 300-years speaks (a Library of Congress) volumes!

Think about this: traditionally, Paul’s attributed epistles (and influence on modern Christian theology) make-up over approximately 44% of the NT, making him by individual author-comparisons ‘Majority Owner.’ And keep in mind that Paul — according to the canonical NT — NEVER met Jesus in person or spent any time with him during his real life. Consider those major implications! Paul’s only authoritative source was first his ONE private paranormal “vision” coupled with his estrangement and dissension with the closest disciples/apostles to Jesus… the “pillars” successors of Jesus’ teachings who were the Jerusalem Council. And how much time exactly did Paul spend with them as a silent student? How much do you really know about the members of the Jerusalem Council? The New Testament will NOT provide you much information, and worse still, much less INDEPENDENT information. The 400-year drama called the NT is HEAVILY one-sided in its own 4th-century CE (not 1st-century!) box.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Regarding SC’s forthcoming Closing Remarks/Argument, I let him have the last words. Therefore, I will let everyone and anyone here respond to his closing. However, should someone want to specifically ask me questions (besides SC) about what I’ve stated here, I’m happy to respond.

Thank you very much Nan for hosting this discussion! This has been interesting to say the least. ❤ 🙂


Round Four: Scientific Christian

Hello again, Taboo. Taboo very nicely gave me the last word, and I must give him credit for his detailed arguments (which I think are totally wrong). Once more, the debate regards the reliability of the New Testament (and the Gospels in particular), as well as the veracity of our early Christian resurrection sources. So,

Think about this: traditionally, Paul’s attributed epistles (and influence on modern Christian theology) make-up over approximately 44% of the NT, making him by individual author-comparisons ‘Majority Owner.’ And keep in mind that Paul — according to the canonical NT — NEVER met Jesus in person or spent any time with him during his real life. Consider those major implications! Paul’s only authoritative source was first his ONE private paranormal “vision” coupled with his estrangement and dissension with the closest disciples/apostles to Jesus… the “pillars” successors of Jesus’ teachings who were the Jerusalem Council. And how much time exactly did Paul spend with them as a silent student? How much do you really know about the members of the Jerusalem Council? The New Testament will NOT provide you much information, and worse still, much less INDEPENDENT information. The 400-year drama called the NT is HEAVILY one-sided in its own 4th-century CE (not 1st-century!) box.

Paul’s letters actually don’t make up 44% of the New Testament, they make up 44% of the books of the New Testament. The following source records the number of words per New Testament book;
[http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/NT-Statistics-Greek.htm]

Accordingly, there are more than 138,000 words in the entire New Testament, but only over 32,000 of them come from Paul’s letters — meaning that Paul’s letters make up less than a fourth (or 25%) of the entire New Testament, smaller than the 44% you claimed.

Secondly, Paul’s source was not only limited to his appearance of Jesus, Paul obviously had numerous other sources as well. For example, we know that he was associated with early disciples like Peter, John, and James and that he made sure his gospel was in harmony with their own, and we know that Paul made us of many early creeds dating to within a few years if not months after the crucifixion of Jesus (including 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Phillipians 2:6-11, Romans 1:2-5, Romans 10:9, etc), which are all different sources Paul used. These sources are early and go back to the original Jerusalem apostles. They’re good, they provide us with means of corroborating our New Testament accounts (Gospels included). We can have confidence in Paul’s letters.

Along with the #3 topic in my intro above, the approximate 27 books and epistles of the NT attempt to narrate a Jewish splinter-movement, its progression — after its leader was prematurely executed — followed by its successor’s attempts to keep the teachings/concepts alive and valid (as was possible or impossible) under severe OPPRESSIVE Roman laws and intolerance, over a 400-year period, AND keep it all accurate. Monumental task, but simply not possible. And it gets worse, MUCH worse.

You go on to claim that Rome’s oppressive laws and persecution of the early Christians would make it not possible to keep all their accounts accurate over a “400-year period”. But the Christians totally didn’t need to keep it all accurate for a 400-year period. Seriously, the time between Jesus’ crucifixion (30 AD) and the earliest complete manuscript of the New Testament (Codex Vaticanus 300 AD) including the legalization of Christianity in Rome (313 AD) is only about 300 years in the first place, not the (amazingly curious) figure Taboo gives us of 400. Furthermore, the New Testament was composed in the first century AD, meaning that the Christians had to keep all of it accurate for upwards 60 years before we know they’d had it written, and after it’s written, preserving it becomes a lot easier as all the Christians would need to do is simply keep copying their manuscripts. And we know that the Christians did a great job at copying their manuscripts. Bart Ehrman himself admits, “The position I argue for in ‘Misquoting Jesus’ does not actually stand at odds with Prof. Metzger’s position that the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.” Despite the large number of variants in our tens of thousands of Greek, Roman, Latin, Aramaic (etc) New Testament manuscripts, textual critics can resolve the vast majority of them to get a good understanding of what the original writers initially wrote to us. See;

Therefore, the claim that Christians keeping the New Testament accurate is not “possible” simply has nothing to do with what we know from the extant historical record.

Therefore, as we’ve seen, there is absolutely no strong argument challening the reliability of the New Testament and what we have to support this, such as the following that I’ve recounted elsewhere;

As for Josephus, again, Josephus was not a Christian and hence was not biased towards Christianity. Josephus corroborates John the Baptist (as well as a number of particular Gospel details about him), that Jesus had a brother named James, and that Jesus was championed by his followers as the Messiah.
Likewise, we’ve also seen that Josephus corroborate some details of the Gospels, the independent traditions throughout the Gospels corroborate each other, as well as further resurrection corroboration by both Paul and the early Pauline creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. Furthermore, archaeology clearly corroborates the Gospels as well. Just two decades ago, scholars tried to claim that synagogues didn’t exist in Palestine before 70 AD and so the Gospels were wrong when they mention Jesus preaching in Galilean synagogues, however, we have now found several pre-70 AD synagogues throughout Palestine (such as the one in Magdala). There is also an emerging relationship between the Gospel of John and archaeology in particular that I mentioned before. In 2008, Richard Bauckham demonstrated that the ratio of names found in the Gospels amazingly correlates to the historical ratios of names throughout Palestine in Jesus’ time, further showing that wherever we can historically test the Gospels, they come out accurate (interestingly, the second century apocryphal works have no such correlation, showing this is not just any sort of coincidence but demonstrative of valid history writing). The only possible conclusion given all our knowledge is that the Gospels are historically reliable, as acknowledged by many historians.

And as for the resurrection, we yet again find ourselves with an abundance of accounts that are both independent, early, and corroborate each other. All four Gospels record the resurrection using different sources (hence their resurrection accounts are independent), and so they all corroborate each other within only 30-60 years of Jesus’ death. Taboo originally tried to claim Mark doesn’t record the resurrection if you don’t include vv. 16:9-20 in Mark’s Gospel, but vv.16:6-7 clearly and explicitly mention Jesus’ resurrection after the women enter the tomb to find it empty, and furthermore, Jesus’ predicts his own resurrection in Mark many times (8:31; 9:31; 10:34; 14:27–28) and so we can say with certainty that Mark records the resurrection. Taboo tried to challenge the resurrection accounts in Paul elsewhere, but I think the words I wrote in my previous response (which Taboo didn’t bother to defend himself from) say enough on this issue;

As for Paul’s epistles, they clearly endlessly discuss the resurrection. Just take a look at 1 Corinthians 15. You say that Paul doesn’t mention a “literal resurrection”, but just read the Greek text of 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul uses Greek terms like ἀνάστασις (anastasis) and ἐγείρω (egeiró) to reference Jesus’ resurrection, Greek terms that only apply to physical bodies getting out of a tomb and coming back to life (see embedded links to their Greek definitions). The idea of spiritual resurrection in the Pauline epistles is increasingly rejected in academia because 1) It contradicts the concept of resurrection in ancient Jewish, pagan, Greek, Roman thought, etc, 2) Clearly is incompatible with what Paul tells us, and 3) Contradicts the very Greek terms used by Paul to refer to Jesus’ resurrection. We have tons of corroborating sources for the resurrection, a bunch of Gospels, Paul’s letters, and then the early creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 dating to a few years if not months of the crucifixion of Jesus. You go on to claim that Paul doesn’t mention an empty tomb, however, Paul explicitly implies the existence of such an empty tomb where Paul says, about the body of Jesus, “that he was buried, that he was raised” (1 Cor. 15:4), and even more recently, the journal New Testament Studies published an excellent paper titled ‘Resurrection in Paganism and the Question of an Empty Tomb in 1 Corinthians 15’ by John Granger Cook, demonstrating that Paul could not have even believed that Jesus had been raised, lest he believed there was an empty tomb. Again, this claim about spiritual resurrection in Paul’s epistles is a dying breed among scholars, the latest and most extensive literature on the subject rightfully rejects this notion that is totally incompatible with all our evidence.

Therefore, I think we can conclude given our evidence that 1) There is not any good reason to think that the Gospels aren’t reliable, 2) There are good reasons to think that the Gospels are reliable, and lastly, 3) We have tons of independent sources originating from a plethora of early Christian authors describing and corroborating different aspects of the historical resurrection. I don’t see how Taboo’s arguments, many of them which include errors such as his reconstruction of what happened at the Council of Nicaea and his claims about how much of the New Testament is Paul, can challenge this. Taboo told us that what we have in the New Testament is the result of the “winners” of the (supposed) early Christian battles, but he just didn’t give us any reasons besides his own words to believe that. As was said by my opponent, ask questions. But don’t just ask questions, ask questions about your questions. Don’t just look at the skeptical case, read the scholarly rebuttal as well.

*********************************************************
Thanks to all readers, Nan for hosting this discussion, and Professor Taboo for engaing in this long and thorough discourse with me.

I’d love to do this again with anyone, and I’ll, of course, respond to any questions anyone may have for me, Taboo included.
-Scientific Christian

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